In a recent matter (Honda Cars India Limited vs Sudesh Berry) before the Supreme Court of India, the apex court overturned a decision of National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission ("NCDRC") and reiterated that a vehicle manufacturer cannot be held liable for any defects in the performance of a dealer and/or an authorised service centre while servicing vehicles.

The appeal was brought before the Supreme Court by the Honda Cars Limited ("Honda") challenging the order passed by the NCDRC. Honda, the appellants in this case manufacture Honda City cars in India. Sudesh Berry, the complainant purchased one such Honda City car in the year 1999. In 2010, the car was involved with an accident in New Delhi and suffered damages. The car was taken to the authorized service centre for repairs. The insurance company by which the car was insured surveyed the damages and estimated that the cost of repairs was approximately Rs.1,50,000/-.

The respondents, Sudesh Berry and 2 others, alleged deficiency on part of Honda as well as the dealer and the service centre and proceeded to file a complaint before the Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum ("District Forum"). The District Forum deliberated the matter and held that insofar as the liability of Honda is concerned, the District Forum finds "no material on record to fasten any liability for the conduct" of the authorised service centre and dealer with whom Honda "have allegedly only a principal to principal relationship". The District Forum allowed the complaint and passed directions against the dealer and the authorized service centre for payment of compensation and costs to the complainants.

The dealer and the authorized service centre aggrieved by the order of the District Forum preferred an appeal before the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Delhi ("State Commission"). The State Commission, by its judgment and order, affirmed the view taken by the District Forum insofar as the liability of Honda was concerned and held that no manufacturing defects were highlighted at the time of delivery of the car for repairs and that the State Commission "was in complete agreement of the finding of the District Forum in this regard that no liability can be fixed on Honda".

The State Commission further upheld the order set forth by the District Forum against the dealer and the authorised service centre and observed that both "are guilty of indulging in unfair trade practice for enhancing the charges of repair". The State Commission determined that it found no reason to interfere with the District Forum's order.

Thereafter, the dealer and the authorized service centre did not carry the matter further, however, Sudesh Berry and one other filed a revision before the National Commission. The National Commission allowed the revision and directed Honda to provide the complainant with a new car against payment of a nominal sum of Rs. 2,50,000/-. Honda, aggrieved by this order of the National Commission, filed the present appeal before the Supreme Court.

Hearing the facts of the case, the Supreme Court has held that there is not an iota of material to show that the accident was caused due to a manufacturing defect, in fact the car has been used by the respondents for more than 10 years after which it suffered an accident. The apex court reiterated an earlier stance it had taken in Tata Motors Limited vs. Antonio Paulo Vaz & Anr that "If there is any deficiency in service by the dealer or the authorized centre in rendering assistance for repairs of the vehicle, the manufacturer of the vehicle cannot be held liable."

The Supreme Court upheld the decision of the District Forum and stated that the District Forum and State Forum were correct in allocating the blame on the authorised service centre and the dealer. The court further held that the order of the NCDRC ought not to have been passed. The Supreme Court allowing this appeal, set-aside the direction issued by the NCDRC and restored the order passed by the District Forum as affirmed by the State Commission.

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